Many young walkers may find it unproductive to join a walking club as many contain mostly older members with different aspirations and probably very different lifestyles from those in their twenties or thirties . Northern Ireland Young Walkers is designed for those who wish to walk and socialize with others of the same age range .The target members are 18-30 year olds. This has held through the years, but as key members get older it has become 20’s 30’s + and if older members want to join there is no exclusion policy.
Over the years they have used a few web providers, seeking one which presents the club best, and allows members to interact. The current site allows members to post comments under each walk – and arrange lifts etc (saving the walk leader from having to co-ordinate this). The club has its own social events and a steadily increasing membership.
Established in 2005 by a small group of friends, the Northern Ireland Young Walkers has not only grown from strength to strength in terms of its membership- from half a dozen to an active membership of nearly 90, and a readership of over 150, but has also provided training courses and skills attainment sessions for its affiliates. In the last year or so the club has grown to have a separate social side – and while many walks work with the socialising, there is a separate social calendar run by a social secretary.
With the attainment of a National Lottery Awards for All grant in 2007, the club was pleased to be able to offer its members the opportunity to train in REC First Aid, hillwalking skills and the Mountain Leader Award, through its Strides for Success project. These residential courses were undertaken by experienced and new members alike and proved edifying, informative and enjoyable.
The thriving membership and level of commitment involved with taking hill walking forward has not equated with an impersonal club filled with fanatics whose sole purpose is going further, higher, faster. Instead, a warm friendly atmosphere where walks and scrambles are undertaken by like-minded people, has developed. Strong friendships have been forged and social events including nights out, dinners, house parties, salsa, pub quizzes and weekends away are the norm.
As a member I am often asked ‘Where is the club based ?’ A definitive answer does not exist, but rather my reply is frequently, ‘Wherever we are assembling for that day’s walk.’ Without meaning to be as flippant as it sounds, I feel that it is fitting that a hill walking club is not centred at a single address or base, but is as nomadic as the activity itself. Whether it’s the Mournes, Sperrins, Wicklow, or the Antrim Plateau, the club is based in whatever car park in which we convene and where the cakes and coffee are served up after.
The walks themselves are as varied as the people who lead them. All members are encouraged to plan and lead walks to whatever their level of competency. Newer members gain confidence in leading walks along coastal and forest paths, while more experienced members often treat us to more strenuous ventures ’off the beaten track’.
The future for the club looks as bright and promising as the last few years, with plans to apply for further funding to educate members in initiatives such as ‘leave no trace’, more first aid training and navigational skills. More weekends away are intended and a busy diary of upcoming walks is being prepared for 2009.
The Membership Secretary Andrew Branagh [email protected] is always glad to hear from anyone wishing to come along and try out a walk or two, or even anyone just curious as to what we do. Rest assured that at the Northern Ireland Young Walkers, a warm and friendly welcome awaits you.
(Contributed by Lynne McClelland with additions by Andrew Branagh)